Effects of Divorce on Teens and How Mobile Devices Can Complicate Healing


Teen Texting

Divorce for teenagers is difficult at best. Now in the world of smart phones and other mobile devices divorce seems to be more open. These devices allow teens to express themselves with clarity never experienced before. It’s easy to fire off an angry text to a dad who has caused the divorce due to his infidelity. It’s easy to curse via a text at a mom who left the family. The teen doesn’t have to do face-to-face communication. The communication tool is right there in their hand. They can ignore, text, turn off and collect evidence for the divorce. It appears the teen is in total control.

Teenagers of divorcing parents need their parents to work on the relationship but teens today are replacing these relationships with hyper-connectivity. The verdict is still out but I believe these hyper-connections will only serve to isolate the teen even more from people who can help them heal and survive the divorce.

Effects of Divorce

  • Worries about how the divorce will disturb social life
  • Most teens see divorce as a parental failure
  • Will share the news of the divorce on social media platforms
  • May rely on peers for support and encouragement
  • Openly defies one or both parents and does it openly on social media
  • Lives in a state of confusion, wanting to grow up and yet terrified it’s coming quickly now that parents are divorced
  • Experiences strong emotions
  • Worries about being put in the middle between parents
  • Feels abandoned by the parent who moved out
  • May lag in school work and or drop out of school
  • May try to self medicate with drugs, alcohol, sexual relationship
  • May have sleep problems

Tips for Parents

  • Teens will attempt to maintain their distance from you
  • Be aware some teens may keep feelings to themselves
  • Remain calm as teens experience blast of anger, crying spells and overwhelming emotions after the news of the divorce becomes real
  • Reassure teen the divorce is not their fault – they did nothing to cause the divorce
  • Provide ample opportunities to talk face-to-face
  • Be aware teen may be reading things on social media regarding your ex
  • Model good digital communication skills – in other words no texting back and forth in a rant with the ex or posting the ex’s faults on social media
  • When upset and texting your teen, let the message set for an hour then reread before sending
  • Be truthful about the cause of the divorce when asked
  • Give your teen permission to not be the “man of the house” or the “mother of the younger siblings”
  • Tell your teen often you are proud of them
  • Model prayer and bible study time
  • Continue attending church and model a faith walk

Tips for Youth Ministers and Church Volunteers
Review the post on tweens and know those suggestions apply to teens also.

  • Realize you are a faith role model for the struggling teen
  • Be a marriage and parent role model
  • Don’t be afraid to address problems between teen and one or both parents
  • Use all social mediums to communicate with teen
  • Show empathy even though you may want to scream in frustration
  • Be prepared with scripture to back you up when addressing issues
  • May be placed in role of career coach for older teens planning on leaving the nest

Youth ministers and volunteers who work with teens can provide holy space – space in churches where teens learn to worship, live a life of faith and connect with God and God’s people. A place where problems at home can be set aside momentarily as one communes with the Heavenly Father.

Youth today in general have more temptations and avenues to become involved in inappropriate behaviors. Add to the mix having one or both parents who used to model Christian lives now possibly involved in immoral lifestyles. Next toss in the ease of obtaining information online. Confusion and frustrations reign as the youth try to sort through these issues. As youth minister your role takes on even stronger influence when it comes to the teen of divorce.

Due to the reliance on mobile devices for teens you may find you need to provide in depth biblical lessons on moral issues along with open and frank discussion of

  • Sexual relationship issues (including gay and lesbian relationships)
  • Dangers of sexting
  • Ease of viewing pornography online
  • Dangers of self-medicating through drugs, alcohol, etc.

If you feel inadequate in these areas, bring in professional help.


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2 thoughts on “Effects of Divorce on Teens and How Mobile Devices Can Complicate Healing

  1. Linda,

    As always – great article packed full of useful information. 🙂 On the issue of teens and social media, I see your concern and I think as people who work in churches and work with children of divorce we do need to be aware that these devices hold the potential of driving teens further away from the help they need and people who can truly speak into their lives.

    That said, I also see huge positives in this area. As we both know and have repeated over and over again, one of the biggest hurdles we face with children of divorce is getting them to talk about what they are feeling. At least with the security of sitting behind a computer, a phone or an ipod, they are liberated to express those emotions. Where we come in is figuring out how to harness that and use it to help them.

    I’m thinking, for example, of a young teen from our last DC4K group. She was having problems with her Dad because the two of them couldn’t sit down and have a conversation. 10 years ago I would have suggested writing a letter (and I did throw that out there as a possibility), but I also suggested texting might be an option because it takes some of the emotional charge away that is present in face-to-face interactions.

    We still keep in touch, and from time to time she shares with me issues and problems she is having related to the divorce and otherwise. Those interactions happen primarily through texting and facebook.

    I think, like many things, the internet and social connectivity come with both great possibilities and great potential for harm. We need to find more and more ways to harness the useful features of these outlets in working with children of divorce.

    At the risk of self-promoting, that’s one of the reasons I created If teens and other kids are already online, we have to try to reach them where they are. Our online support group for teens hope to capitalize on the use of social media that tweens and teens are increasingly using. It is essential that we have a presence there on Facebook, on Twitter, on Pheed and Instagram. Just like we need to understand the unique challenges facing teen children of divorce in particular, we need to understand and utilize the world of teens in general in order to reach them.

    That’s my two cents! 🙂

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